Monday, March 19, 2012

What Was I Doing Here Again?

I've been reading Juan Cole's "Engaging With The Muslim World". It's funny; I would never had heard of Juan Cole if it wasn't for that scandal a few years ago when, during the Bush Jr. administration, the CIA was instructed to gather information on Cole (the officer assigned to gather the info refused, rightfully, on legal grounds). It's similar to how the most popular books in the Middle Ages were the ones that were banned.

Anyway, reading Professor Cole's book, I am reminded of the question "Why did the U.S. invade Iraq?" Before you roll your eyes, let's really think back: the purported WMD connection has long since been squashed, as had the touted links between Saddam and Al Qaeda. I don't know -- I feel like there should have been some other reason given to justify the continued U.S. presence. It wasn't discussed in the media, nor was there a dialogue about it. After the formerly mentioned reasons were exposed as fluff, there was nothing else. It seems like the U.S. was embarrassed about the situation and spent almost 10 years looking for the opportunity to get out -- always hoping that it didn't have to give a real reason for its presence. Basically, I think the U.S. could have done a much better job in outlining its goals once the original justifications were exposed as fraudulent.

Let's go back to the beginning. Cole lists five reasons (like, real reasons) as to why the U.S. invaded Iraq. They are:
  • Ensure flow of petroleum from the Persian Gulf.
  • Obtain U.S. access to Iraqi oil fields, rather than boycotting them.
  • Prevent regional powers (China, India, etc.) from locking in long term contracts in Iraq.
  • Prevent Iraq from "emerging as a regional dominant power".
  • Preserve the leading position of Israel and Saudi Arabia in the region.
Now, these are reasons that are often cited, but in my opinion, they are considered one step away from "conspiracy theory" material. However, they all seem plausible. The shocking bit is that a war could actually be started with these goals in mind. Let's explore that.

Cole writes of the two situations that Bush/Cheney faced before 9/11: Sanctions on Iraq and Iran ensured that the U.S. oil companies would not have an opportunity to explore and develop the oil fields in these countries. Effectively, sanctions locked the U.S. out of the game. AIPAC ensured that the sanctions continued, which was counter to U.S. business interests. What to do?
Cole argues that Cheney had the revelation that embracing all-out regime change instead of mere sanctions would ensure U.S. access to these natural resources (as long as the new governments were friendly/sponsored by the U.S.). What's convenient about this option is that AIPAC would also support regime change in both Iraq and Iran. Therefore, AIPAC is satisfied, U.S. oil companies are satisfied, and everybody (except the Iraqis and Iranians) wins!

Again, whenever "oil" and "AIPAC" are mentioned in regards to the Iraq War, there is a slight stain on the argument, in my opinion. Those concepts are not a part of the media's vocabulary and consequently the public is not inundated with those justifications. Therefore, Joe Q. Public doesn't necessarily trust the ideas. I admit: I roll my eyes whenever somebody says "we went there because of the oil!" It just seems like a cop-out. Oil? Really? Start a war, kill thousands, displace millions, over oil?

Well... when you consider the people who were making these decisions, the possibility of starting a war over oil (read: money) is more plausible. In fact, considering the tacitly acknowledged culture of Wall Street for example, where greed and money are more important than humanity, the oil justification takes on an unsettling degree of probability. (Also, going to war over money is not without precedent. Consider the U.S. entry into World War I: I think it is not controversial to say that the U.S. declared war in 1917 and sent troops to Europe in 1918 in order to protect its investments with the Allies, who were struggling at the time. If the Allies lost, the U.S. would have lost a lot of money.)

The problem is that since the argument over justifications has been ignored for the past few years and has received barely any mention in public discourse, people are left to draw their own conclusions, usually based on conjecture, rumor, and imagined expertise.

But perhaps Occam's Razor is in full effect here. In that case, Cole is right. Quite unsettling, that.

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